So yes, I’m gonna go there – homemade pastrami. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a huge time commitment, but 98% of it is passive time, so no skin off your knuckles. But so freakin’ worth it. I promise you, once you do this, you will never buy pastrami again, NEVER!
There are some things/tools you’re gonna need and I want to put it right out there from the start. I don’t want to spring it on you at the end and say well damn, I just wasted my time on this joker because I don’t have or want to have any of this stuff he’s talking about. But most of it is optional or you can make do with something else or a different method….here we go…
You’re gonna need some time, obviously. We’re talking 7-9 days here. You’re gonna need some space. It’s a brisket and it’s a gallon of brine, so it’ll take up quite a bit of room in your fridge for that 7-9 days. You’ll need a vessel to put that brisket and brine in. I like to use a food storage tub with a lid that I got at my local restaurant supply store. Really cheap and useful in so many ways. Any vessel that can hold your brine and your brisket will work. Hell, even a bucket will work if you can fit that in your fridge. You’re gonna need either a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. I have both but I really like the spice grinder. Either way, grind those spices fresh. It’s the only way.
And you’re gonna need a smoker. Any smoker will do. The meat slicer is totally optional and I know many of you don’t have one, and it’s not necessary at all. This is totally sliceable by hand so don’t even worry about that.
One thing that is not optional is a good meat thermometer. But I know you guys. You guys already have a good meat thermometer because if you own a smoker, you have a meat thermometer. Right? Damn right you do.
So now that you know all you’re gonna need to make your homemade pastrami, I really truly hope I didn’t scare you off. I cannot tell you how amazing it is and this might sound silly, but the sheer satisfaction from curing your own meat, it makes it even more delicious.
It freezes super duper awesome too, so don’t be afraid of the quantity when sliced. I usually do share my cured wares, but you certainly don’t have to and truthfully, you probably won’t want to so rest assured, you can freeze this.
At the bottom of the post you can find a video of the process. I find with curing meat, a visual is always helpful.
Go forth people and cure meat!
- 4.5-6 pound brisket flat
- 1 gallon distilled water
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- ¾ cup kosher salt
- 1 inch piece ginger, sliced
- 1 tablespoon pink curing salt (Instacure #1 or Prague powder)
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 cinnamon stick, broke in half
- 2 bay leaves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 𝟙 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
THE RUB: all ingredients course ground except the ginger
- regular old mustard, to act as a binder
- ½ cup peppercorns
- ½ cup coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
To make the brine, remove 4 cups distilled water and place in a pot over medium/high heat. Add in all of the brine ingredients except the sliced ginger. Heat, stirring every now and again, until the sugars are dissolved.
Once the sugars are dissolved, carefully remove the brine to your brining vessel, add the sliced ginger and add the remaining gallon of distilled water to it. Stir it about and let it cool.
You can let it cool on your counter or in the fridge. I like to put it in the fridge for about an hour.
Once the brine is cool, give it another stir and add the brisket flat to the brine. I like to put a plate on top of it to keep it submerged.
Place it back in the fridge and let it hang out 7-9 days.
7-9 days have gone by. This is the point where you'll want to start heating your smoker up. Smoke temperature for this entire cook will be 250°.
You've got your smoker heating up, so it's time to remove the brisket flat and rinse under cool water. Dry it off.
Place the flat on a large surface because it's time to season it up.
Mix together all of the the rub spices until well incorporated. Squirt some mustard on the brisket and rub it down. You just want a light coat of mustard. It is just acting a binder for the spice mix. It WILL NOT flavor the brisket with mustard. You WILL NOT be able to tell that it was ever there. It's just the glue for the spices, so don't be afraid.
Generously season the brisket on both sides with your spice mixture.
Place the brisket in the smoker fat side down. Smoke at 250° for 4 hours.
Your internal temperature of the brisket should be in the 150-175° range. Next up is the finish off phase.
Preheat your oven to 300°. Place two layers of aluminum foil down. Make those squares pretty big because we want to wrap the brisket up in it. Put the brisket down in the middle of the foil and then bring up the edges and crimp it shut. You want this to be a really tight pocket – don't leave any extra space, so really snug that brisket up. This will take the place of the steaming process in making pastrami.
If you have a meat thermometer now is the time to place it in the meat. Stick it in about halfway through the meat.
Place the brisket in the preheated oven and cook until the internal temperature reaches 200°. This is a good temperature, but that doesn't mean it's "done". Once it reaches 200°, you'll want to probe this meat in a few different spots on the meat. You're not looking for temperature though, you're testing for tenderness. Your probe or whatever you're using should go into each section you stick it in smoothly. You don't want it fall apart tender but if you're having a hard time sticking it in or you can feel a lot of resistance, cook it for another 30 minutes and check it again.
Remember, you'll probably want to slice this up, so if you cook it too long where it falls apart, slicing will become very hard. It'll still be delicious, but not sliceable.
Now that you've got it just like you want it, whether that's sliceable or shreddable. Let it hang out and cool a bit for about an hour. You can eat now or whatever, but if you plan on slicing this on a meat slicer, which I highly recommend if you can, cool in the fridge completely. It'll make it way easier to slice.
Got the curing bug? Homemade capicola will blow. your. mind.